State Budget Cuts May Effect Classroom Sizes

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - State budget cuts are looming and that has school districts scrambling to find ways to keep up the pace with less funding. The State comptroller has a few suggestions to save some green but one them has local teacher groups seeing red.

According to a report released last month by Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs, there was a 63 percent increase in public school spending per student, just in the last decade.

One way Combs suggested the state save money is by getting rid of the 22 student limit per class for kindergarten through 4th grade.

But one local teacher fears it would hurt children instead of helping them.

"Well it'll certainly save money but it's absolutely the wrong thing to do," Chuck Isner, with the Texas State Teacher's Association, said.

It may be the wrong thing to do in Isner's eyes, but if state lawmakers agree with the Comptroller's report, class sizes for kindergarten through fourth could be bigger so Texas' debt can be smaller.

Isner said if that happens, it's obvious, money talks.

"I've never heard a politician talk about education that they don't say 'Bottom line, it's all about the kids,'" Isner said. "Well right here they're making it clear what the bottom line is for some of them."

Isner teaches at the ECISD Alternative Center. He's also the Regional President of the Texas State Teacher Association.

He said the 22 student cap has been in place for almost 25 years and that number is a result of a compromise between lawmakers and teachers.

"All research proves that smaller class size produces better results," Isner said.

But the Comptroller feels the same results can be achieved with less spending.

The report rated schools' spending against students' progress on a five star scale, one star meaning very high spending and five stars meaning very low spending.

More than 1,200 school districts were analyzed, and only 43 took home a five star rating.

"So what they're saying is we want to spend less when only 43 are successful at the levels we're at," Isner said. "Obviously lower expenditures are not achieving high results."

If Isner had his way, he would put a student cap on all grades. That way each student is getting the attention they need and he hopes lawmakers feel the same way.

"Let's focus on the kids and what's right and what's best for the kids, not what's a quick fix because it will cost a little less money," Isner said.

The Comptroller's report offered a few other money-savings suggestions. Those included sharing classroom facilities with community colleges to save them both money, moving towards more coursework offered online and switching from textbooks to e-books. That alone would cost about 40% less.